Mental Health FAQ
Q: What is mental Health?
A. Mental health involves how we think, feel, and act, is influenced by many factors and in turn also impacts many aspects of our lives. It’s also a spectrum - everyone has mental health, regardless of whether or not you have a mental illness. Therefore, it is possible to have no mental illness with poor mental health and vice versa. The amount of support needed (if any), is based on how well you are feeling and functioning in your life, and can be beneficial for many individuals.
A more formal definition would be:
“Mental health is a dynamic state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of society [The values we are referring to are: respect and care for oneself and other living beings; recognition of connectedness between people; respect for the environment; respect for one's own and others' freedom]. Basic cognitive and social skills; ability to recognize, express and modulate one's own emotions, as well as empathize with others; flexibility and ability to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind represent important components of mental health which contribute, to varying degrees, to the state of internal equilibrium.” (Galderisi, S., Heinz, A., Kastrup, M., Beezhold, J., & Sartorius, N. (2015). Toward a new definition of mental health. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 14(2), 231–233. doi:10.1002/wps.20231)
Q. What is mental illnesS?
A. Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. It includes a variety of diagnosable conditions that impact someone’s mental health and functionality. Like a physical illness, mental illness has a spectrum and can range from minor to severe. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time, but a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function on a day to day basis. Examples of mental illnesses include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. A mental illness can make you miserable and can cause problems in your daily life - such as at school or work or in relationships. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy). For example, a panic attack is often more severe than minor anxiety, similar to how you might compare a sprained ankle to a broken bone - both can affect our health, but do so to varying extents.
However, mental illnesses do not have to be synonymous with poor mental health. With proper management and support, someone with a mental illness can still have good mental health the same way treatment helps those with physical illnesses live their lives to their full potential.
Q: what are some of the warning signs of poor mental health or mental illness?
A. Typically, there are 3 major factors that you should consider:
Intensity: Are you experiencing thoughts, feelings and behaviors out of the norm for yourself or the “average” person? How strongly do you feel these feelings and thoughts?
Duration: How long have you been feeling this way? Does it take up most of your day? These are things to consider, especially if you have been experiencing them for longer periods of time (Ex. over 2 weeks).
Impact: Are these thoughts, feelings and behaviors impacting your life or making it difficult to function? Interactions with school, work, loved ones, hobbies or self-care could all be places that are affected by our mental health.
However, if someone is in crisis you can contact a crisis line, and if the safety of yourself, a loved one, or others are at risk please contact emergency services.
Q. what types of help are out there?
A. There are a variety of programs and professionals available. We also have a resource directory that you can click on here to access. There are generally two types of supports: Professional and Non-professional
Psychologist: Most psychologists have a PhD or PsyD, while some may have a Master’s depending on the training requirements in your area. The two main types are clinical and research, the former focusing on treatment while the latter mainly focusing on research. Both are trained in psychological assessments, which is one of services that generally only they can provide.
Therapists/counselors: They generally have a Master’s level education and specialize in mental health treatment through psychotherapy. Psychotherapy includes a variety of approaches, generally dealing with specific issues such as marriage/divorce and family issues. However, they are also trained to treat most mental illnesses.
Social Worker: There are different types of social workers, so this information may vary by region. They generally approach mental health from a social perspective and are familiar with social factors, such as housing and meeting basic needs.
Occupational Therapists: These therapists specialize in the functional aspects of life. They take on a holistic approach to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life, helping people navigate lifestyle challenges such as education and employment, and in many cases also aid in the rehabilitation of fine motor skills.
Psychiatrist: Unlike other roles, psychiatrists are doctors, and can prescribe medication if that is a necessary component of your treatment. Like clinical psychologists, psychiatrists also have more extensive education and training. Being doctors, they can also help with physical illnesses should one be impacting your mental health, such as if your depression is related to a thyroid or gastrointestinal condition.
Loved ones: Friends or family may be the first people you reach out to when things are difficult! They can be a great resource, since they often know you well, are easy to get in touch with, and can help you seek out more support.
Peer Support Centres: Many college campuses offer peer support programs, where you can talk to a trained volunteer who is often another student who can listen and is familiar with campus resources.
Online/Phone/Text/Distress Lines: Depending on the line in question, you’ll most likely get a trained volunteer who’s similarly aged, similar to a peer support centre. It varies depending on the specific lines, so check yours to see if it has professional staff available or not. Support lines are great because they’re more likely to be more available outside of business hours, such as evenings, weekends, and public holidays.
Q. What do I do if I feel like I’m struggling?
A. The amount and type of support you might require depends on how difficult things are, hence ranging from self-care and social support from loved ones, to seeing a counselor or therapist, similar to how you would see your doctor if you had a flu. For crisis situations, call a crisis line and if the safety of you, your loved ones or others should be at risk, call emergency services. Click here to access our resource directory.
Q. How can I help some I love who may be struggling with their mental health?
A. Reach out and talk to them if you’re comfortable doing so. Sometimes the warmth and interest of someone who cares is just what they need! You don’t need to be a professional to help people out. The Canadian charity Jack.org has a great resource for this called Be There, which provides guidance on how you can support others. You can also encourage them to open up to other loved ones and seek out peer support programs and/or professional help. For crisis situations, call a crisis line and if there is a risk to the safety of yourself, loved ones or others, call emergency services.
Q. WHAT IF I DON’T THINK I CAN AFFORD TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP?
A. Different regions of the world have different levels of support, so check your region to see if universal healthcare is available and what is or is not covered under yours. However, some ways in which mental healthcare costs can be covered include:
Insurance: This could include your family, student or work insurance. Check with your provider to see what is available, be it for therapy, medication, or others.
Your work/campus: Many campuses offer reduced or free mental health services, so visit an advisor or campus health centre to check. Employee benefits may also include these. Alternatively, if there is a school nearby that offers a therapy program, their counseling center might potentially have affordable therapy options through pre-licensed therapists.
Sliding scale: Many community mental health services offer sliding scale payments, meaning that depending on your level of income, you may be eligible for a reduced fee for therapy sessions. Contact them to check if that’s an option for you.